A Coaching Power Tool created by Suman Rudra
(Executive Coach, INDIA)
Absolute power is never absolute. But used with persuasion and influence, it can absolutely get things done.
What is Power?
Power is the ability of one person to influence what another person thinks or does. You have power over another person to the extent that you can influence what this person thinks or what this person does.
Sources of Power by Dr. Terry Stimson
French and Raven developed what is regarded as a classic scheme for categorizing the various bases of power. Their work was first presented in an article in Studies of Social Power in 1959, titled “The Bases of Social Power”. They identified five distinct bases of power:
These five power bases were expanded on by Hershey and Blanchard in their text, “Management of Organizational Behavior” (1982) in which they added two more bases of power that are relevant to this discussion. The two additional power bases are: connection and information. The seven power bases can easily be separated into two broad categories of power: positional and personal.
Legitimate power (sometimes called authority or formal power) is that which is derived from the person’s position in the organization. It exists because organizations find it advantageous to assign certain powers to individuals so that they can do their jobs effectively. All managers have some degree of legitimate power.
is based on the individual's ability to reward desirable behavior. It stems partly from legitimate power. Managers because of their positions have control over certain rewards, such as pay increases, promotions, work schedules, status symbols and recognition awards, which they can use to reward desirable behavior.
is the opposite of reward power, and is based on the ability of the individual to sanction (punish) or prevent someone from obtaining desirable rewards.
Rewards and punishment are powerful motivational tools, and leaders are generally better served by the exercise of reward power than by the exercise of coercive power.
But only if reward power is used effectively. Look at these three types of power as POSITIONAL power and conferred on one from the ORGANIZATION, e.g., come with the position of manager, and each manager has at least some of each of the three “powers of office.” The remaining four, however, are in a different domain entirely.
derives from having knowledge that is valued by the organization or individuals with whom the person interacts. Expertise in a particular field or at problem solving or at performing critical tasks are types of expert power. Expert power is personal to the individual who has the expertise, hence it is different from the other three sources of power previously mentioned. However, the possession of expert power may be the basis for rising to a management position in the area of the expertise, now providing the incumbent with expert power as well that legitimate, reward and coercive power.
results when the individual engenders admiration, loyalty and emulation to the extent that the person gains the power to influence other. Charismatic leaders have referent power. They have a vision for the organization that they lead, strong convictions about the correctness of the vision, and great confidence in their ability to realize the vision, and are perceived by their followers as agents of change.
is more commonly referred to as "networking" these days. It is who you know, vertically and horizontally, both within and outside the organization. This may be referred to in some circles as the "Old Boys Club" and represents many of the political dynamics that make up organizations.
is a power that can be either personal or positional. A manager should have more information power than his or her direct reports but it isn't always the case. As a result, an individual that is actively involved in the "grapevine" often has more accurate information than the manager. The "grapevine" is thought to be primarily rumor but, when studied, the "grapevine" has proven to be about 80% correct. Therefore, the person in the organization with the most reliable information is thought to have quite a bit of power.
A wise leader realizes that in order to be an effective leader he/she can not rely exclusively on positional power. There is a delicate dance that must take place between positional and personal power for a manager to be considered an effective leader.
The fascinating thing about power is that people who hold it are expected to use it or they risk losing respect for not exercising power. When Reagan was president he was an example of a person that totally fulfilled the role of the powerful president, almost like royalty. While at the same time, Carter, who made a big deal out of carrying his own bags, was not perceived as having a lot of personal power. It is a delicate balance but people do need to exercise their legitimate power. Regardless of whether a person is the CEO or the secretary they are expected to exercise their power. Power is a neutral tool, so exercising the power does not have to be a negative action. Rather, an individual needs to use their legitimate power to do their job more effectively. I think managers think they are the power in much the same way that politicians believe they have the power rather than the “tools” to do their job. When managers think they have positional power because of who they are rather than the position they hold in the organization, they are headed for trouble.
Power is a neutral tool which can be used for positive or negative outcomes. I found from my research that when power is treated as an opportunity to do good for others and the organization, everyone benefits. In many respects power is like love, the more it is shared, the more it grows. Many managers have trouble sharing power for fear they are giving away a scarce resource and once power is given away it is lost.
What is Influence?
Influence is the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others. The key word in that definition is compelling, which means to have irresistible qualities. Therefore, in order to influence someone you have to do it in a way that is not resisted. Thus, no influence = dictating.
How do you do that? Very simple. The only way for you to effectively influence someone is in your communication. In other words, your first step as a leader is to understand how communication motivates a person to specific actions.
For me, the most important part of communication is personality styles. It’s not enough for me as a leader, parent, or just a person to think instructing another person on a task, chore, or whatever, is enough to actually cause the person to execute on it with greatness.
How they receive that information is way more important than how you deliver it. So merely telling them isn’t enough. You have to understand that if they are a high detail person, then delivering a portion of the information isn’t enough. Your “influence” will now cause that person to fail.
Instead, focus your leadership on your communication skills by understanding each of your team members personality styles
- Dominant – Gives and receives information in sounds bites. Has a tendency to miss out on details and is highly likely to hurt feelings in the process. Has a short window of focus until they move on to the next exciting and shiny object. Excellent at getting things done. Always has a desire to be in leadership.
- Interactive – Is really focused on people, so they tend to be more focused on conversation and what is going on with you…or them. Needs to have a moment of personal conversation before discussing tasks. Has a tendency to miss details and rarely takes notes. Great at motivating others.
- Stable – Very concerned about all people around them. Very diplomatic in their process and hard to motivate with change. Confrontation is scarier than snakes and tofu. Usually needs to completely understand the need for the project, as well as if will effect anyone negatively. Extremely loyal and great at looking out for others.
- Compliant – Favourite things are Excel spread sheets and Google. Mainly because you can learn how to build a rocket in Google, and literally build it in Excel. Must, must, MUST have all the details. Also needs to be allowed to ask questions and share that they don’t completely understand the project.
Incredibly precise and accurate when executing. These are just the absolute tip of understanding communication with others. The next step is to focus your leadership on active listening. You have two ears and one mouth. Use the percentages accordingly.
Power and Influence are two important characteristic which are responsible to make a executive effective in a corporate environment. It’s important to understand how this affects oneself and how one can move from power centric to influence centric approach. Though Power itself is not bad if the usage of power is understood as per the situations. Influence is not something that comes natural in leadership, its something that you do. As a leader, if you don’t have influence with people, then you’re a dictator.